Excursion 59, Part 2 (The Steel Mill)

I never worked at a factory.  I did, for a few months, between my graduation from college and when I went off across the country to graduate school, work at an oil refinery, which at least is another industrial setting.  That was the summer of 1988, which not coincidentally was the last time I was shaven; the refinery prohibited beards for safety reasons.   I did a variety of things there; some clerical work, some gopher work, some light manual labor, so I was not bored. I find it difficult to imagine myself in something like an assembly-line job, doing the same thing all day long; I think my personality is not suited for that and it would be very hard on me.  Other types of factory work are much more varied.

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Excursion 59, Part 1 (The Match King and his Magic City)

American royalty is an odd lot.  We have “Camelot” and the court of JFK, and we’ve seen the Flivver King (Henry Ford), the Mattress King (from the TV series “Friends”) and the King of the Road (courtesy of Roger Miller).  We’ve also had Queen Latifah and Prince.  Americans seem to have an odd need for royalty—just witness the lavish attention so many Americans pay to British royalty—but in our own country our de facto royalty seem to be celebrities and the incredibly wealthy.  “Commodore” Cornelius Vanderbilt was American royalty and so is Kanye West.  Sometimes our American royalty leave odd legacies. One descendent of Vanderbilt is news anchor Anderson Cooper.  And we’ll get to meet another American royal and his still-enduring legacy.

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Excursion 53, Part 2 (Eat Dessert First)

Try and think of the earliest dessert you ever ate.  Can you think of anything?  The earliest things I can remember, all from the time I was four or less, are animal crackers, vanilla wafers, ice cream (the earliest word I learned to spell, because my parents would ask one another, “Do you want to go get some i-c-e-c-r-e-a-m?”), and chocolate shakes.  The latter I remember because I got sick with some sort of stomach bug and had to go for several days without eating or drinking anything except for sips of water—that was how sensitive my stomach was.  I started fantasizing about a milkshake and, when I could finally eat again, I pleaded for a milkshake.  My parents, bless them, obliged—and I promptly threw it up.

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Excursion 52 (Glimpses of Space and Time and Space)

On my way back from a gaming event in Cleveland, I decided to take the long way home and drive through the flat farming country of north central Ohio.  In such areas of Ohio, you get a bit more wide open view, though usually bounded by a row of trees sooner or later, and this gives you a bit of perspective on the small things—such as you and I—encountered in such larger landscapes. Continue reading

Excursion 40, Part 1 (Shorter Days, Longer Memories)

Ohio is a state with four seasons and, arguably, three of them suck.  But even the grumpiest Buckeye would admit that Ohio is wonderful in the fall.  This is the Ohio of the Calvin and Hobbes Sunday strips.  Cool, comfortable weather; the exciting smell of that first true fall day; the leaves, oh, those glorious leaves.  Couple all that with the human excitement of back to school, football season, Halloween and Thanksgiving, and you just have a swell old time.

Each October I spend a lot of time in the Cleveland area, on my other money-wasting hobby.  These past few years I have not driven straight back to Columbus, but rather used the fact of being in Cleveland to launch an excursion into some area of northeast Ohio.  That is what I did in October 2014 as I began my 40th formal photographic excursion across my beloved home state.

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Excursion 16, Part 4 (The Hanging House)

In which our intrepid hero encounters some bad noose…

This year I “celebrate” my 20th year of studying extremists in the United States, something that began as a completely unplanned and odd little outgrowth of my dissertation (which had nothing to do with extremism or, for that matter, the 20th century).  By January 1995, I was spending a lot of time looking at domestic extremists and the April 1995 Oklahoma City bombing essentially changed my life forever, causing me to focus on extremism and terrorism, first voluntarily and soon professionally.  I’ve done that ever since.  But my very first encounter with extremism occurred decades earlier, when I was a child.

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Excursion 14, Part 3 (On the Trail of John Hunt Morgan)

In which our intrepid hero encounters the ghost of a Confederate general…

The Civil War has long fascinated me.  Of course, on one level it should, as I have a Ph.D. in American military history.  But it began long before that.  I probably have my grandparents to thank for that, because at some point they purchased American Heritage’s Picture History of the Civil War (1960) for my uncle Dennis, when he was a child.  This amazing book, containing fascinating diagrammatic paintings of battlefields and text written by famed Civil War historian Bruce Catton, remains today about as perfect an introduction to the Civil War as I could imagine.  I soon discovered that they had related gems on their living room bookshelves, including Reader’s Digest abbreviated versions of some of Catton’s histories.  These were among the earliest books I read on military history and certainly had a lifelong influence on me.  They also produced another effect on me that still lasts, too—a wistful realization of the immutability of history.  Sadly, no matter how many books on the Civil War I read, no matter what new material they may uncover, McClellan never manages to take Richmond; Hooker always loses his nerve.  It is Groundhog Day, but where Bill Murray never changes.

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